Every city deserves a Friday-night fixture
Shaun McKernan applying pressure for the Crows (Slattery Images)
The majority of my Friday nights go like this: I get home from uni, do a bit of study, pick up some snacks from the shops and plonk myself in front of the TV, ready for a cracking match of footy.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Melbourne versus Fremantle; I’ll still be there with a packet of confectionery snakes, a pie and some mineral water, relaxing after a hard week of study and work.
There’s a certain magic to Fridays and different cultures celebrate this weekly event in their own unique way.
In America, Friday is the night where people go out and get blind drunk, start a fight with a bouncer and spew all over a shop-front.
In Australia, we’re a little more subdued this time of the week.
We finish our work-week, jovial as ever to have a free couple of days, head to the local for a couple of quiet ones and watch a game of footy with the boys.
Saturday is our night to embarrass ourselves, send stupid texts to our mates and “fall in love” with a Burrito, Yiros or another ethnically inspired condiment-filled wrap.
But let’s get back to Friday.
The reason why most of my Friday nights occur like this is because I can’t attend many Friday Night game.
I’m a South Australian, you see, so there aren’t many Friday night matches played at Football Park.
In fact, the only regular-round Friday-night fixture for either South Australian team was played in Round 12, in a game featuring the Crows and St Kilda.
Only two Friday-night games are featured at Patersons Stadium in Perth.
Meanwhile, a solitary game is held at the Sydney Cricket Ground, which took place last week between the Swans and the Cats.
Eight are played at the MCG and nine at Docklands.
The Friday-night game in Round 23 doesn’t have a definite venue yet as it’s a floating round, however the game between the Hawks and the Eagles is a big possibility to take the cake.
Both sides will be looking to finish in the top four this season.
For arguments sake, 18 Friday-night games are held in Melbourne, while the rest of Australia only hosts four.
Seems a little unbalanced, huh?
Sure, Melbourne has half the competition’s teams in the one city and the venues can pull big numbers for these big matches.
But my egalitarianism side forces me to believe that a few more games a season should be given to other clubs, who play most of their games on a boring Sunday afternoon or Saturday twilight fixture.
Look at the Swans for instance.
Last weekend’s match against the Cats was close to a sell-out.
27,400 people turned up to the match in cold Sydney weather, at a ground that is undergoing major redevelopment.
The SCG hosted just its fourth Friday-night fixture in fifteen seasons.
The AFL does a lot of things correctly.
The competition is well run, it engage peoples in the community, takes care of grassroots footy and works well with the media to create a friendly, professional relationship.
Yet sometimes they’re too well run.
When the AFL sorts out its fixtures for the next season, they take into account a range of factors: potential crowds, television ratings and the fixtures of other codes, just to name a few.
That’s why Sydney and Brisbane don’t host many Friday-night matches, because they have to go head-to-head with the NRL.
In NRL heartland, the AFL plays second fiddle, if not third or fourth fiddle.
But Friday night’s game shows that if you set up fixtures intelligently, two top-eight sides in a rugby-league heartland can draw a pretty decent crowd.
And that applies just as much for Adelaide and Perth, both strong AFL cities.
With 22 Friday-night games a season (no match is played on Good Friday), I propose the following:
Seven matches at each of the Docklands and MCG, two each in Perth and Adelaide and one each for Brisbane, Gold Coast, GWS and Sydney.
I know this may seem a little far-fetched, and there’ll be some who disagree.
But I’m sick and tired of seeing clubs like Geelong and Collingwood play eight or so Friday night matches whereas Port Adelaide and Gold Coast don’t even feature in one.
This proposal will still ensure good crowds and television viewers, while allowing every club to have their moment in the spotlight.
Meanwhile, the rest of us who fervently frequent sports bars and the lounge room will be able to abandon those areas for one Friday night here and there to head out to watch our team on the national stage.
To put it simply, we live in one of the most politically correct, equal countries on earth. All our professional sports are bounded to a salary cap to promote equality and fairness.
The AFL has some work to do to follow the same principles in their fixtures.
Who’s to say this shouldn’t be able to happen?
Who’s to say that each and every club doesn’t deserve to play on the biggest night of the week?
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